Life is full of lessons to be learned. When we’re thinking about how to best lead, promote, sing, or otherwise operate within the context of an a cappella group, it’s worth looking beyond the realm of a cappella itself to what other walks of life can teach us.
AMC's The Walking Dead, a television show based on a successful series of comic books, arrive as a surprise smash success in fall 2010. Could a show that dwelled in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-riddled world appeal to a mainstream audience? The program answered with an emphatic yes.
Did the quality of the special effects and makeup help the shows cause? Sure. Smart writing and directing? Couldn't have hurt it. Solid, realistic acting? Yeah, that's a piece of the puzzle.
What made the show positively click, though, was level of complexity it operated under. Policeman Rick Grimes gets shot on the job and sent into a coma. He awakes to a zombie apocalypse, separated from everyone he knows. Remarkably enough, he finds his way to his wife and kids; little does he know his best friend has started sleeping with the missus in his absence. Meanwhile, the core community of characters with the family aligns are far from a monolithic front against all zombie kind; their ranks include a mix of generations, a wife beater, a white supremacist, and, you know, a guy who slept with his best friend's wife.
Though television often benefits from clear, easy-to-follow plots, there's a part of sophisticated audience members that constantly longs for complexity. In our lives, we so rarely fit just one role. We're mothers and musicians and daughters and athletes and wives and accountants. These parts of our lives are rarely completely separate, either, as they inevitably bleed into one another. Such is the nature of the human condition.
In the realm of a cappella, there are a lot of opportunities to complexify your work in productive ways. Do your arrangements consist of a soloist, and a bunch of people belting block chords? Think about dynamics, syllables, harmonies. Is everyone standing in an arc, or are you staggering your physical stance, or choreographing?
The more you have going on in your overall presentation, the more there will be for your audience to enjoy about the performance. Few things are more special than a performance that multiple listeners enjoy for entirely different reasons If you can create music that resonates with disparate constituencies, you will almost necessarily broaden your fan base. On top of that, you will achieve more as a collection of artists, refining your craft and building toward bigger accomplishments yet.